A victim of the bomb blast in Damboa is taken to hospital in Maiduguri on June 17 2018. Picture: REUTERS
A victim of the bomb blast in Damboa is taken to hospital in Maiduguri on June 17 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Kano — Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed at least 31 people in a twin suicide bomb attack on a town in northeast Nigeria, a local official and a militia leader told AFP on Sunday.

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

Following the suicide bombings, the jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the attacks, driving the number of casualties higher.

"There were two suicide attacks and rocket-propelled grenade explosions in Damboa last night which killed 31 people and left several others injured," said local militia leader Babakura Kolo.

Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Shuwari and nearby Abachari neighbourhoods in the town around 10.45pm (9.45pm GMT), killing six residents, said Kolo, speaking from the state capital Maiduguri, which is 88km from the town.

"No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram," Kolo said.

A local government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll. "The latest death toll is now 31 but it may increase because many among the injured may not survive," said the official.

"Most of the casualties were from the rocket projectiles fired from outside the town minutes after two suicide bombers attacked," he said.

The attack was the latest example of Boko Haram’s continued threat to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, said Ryan Cummings, Africa analyst at the Signal Risk consultancy in SA. "Boko Haram still maintains both the intent and operational capacity to launch mass casualty attacks in parts of northeastern Nigeria," Cummings said, despite the government’s repeated claims that the group is on the back foot. The use of the rockets was "particularly conspicuous", Cummings said, as it "indicates that the sect continues to have access to military-grade weaponry".

"The Boko Haram insurgency is not showing any immediate signs of" easing, said Cummings.

The jihadist group has regularly deployed suicide bombers — many of them young girls — in mosques, markets and camps housing people displaced by the nine-year insurgency.

On May 1 at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide blasts targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state.

The attacks have devastated Nigeria’s northeast, one of the country’s poorest regions where illiteracy and unemployment are rampant. Seeking purpose and money, disillusioned and jobless young men have turned to the radical Islam of Boko Haram, which decries western colonialism and the modern Nigerian state.

In their quest to carve out a caliphate, the jihadists have razed towns to the ground, kidnapped women and children and slaughtered thousands of others, putting many more on the brink of starvation.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 vowing to stamp out Boko Haram but the jihadists continue to stage frequent attacks, targeting both civilians and security forces. The militants stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing more than 100 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

The deadly violence has put Buhari under pressure as elections approach in February next year. Along with Boko Haram, Buhari faces the continued threat of militants in the oil-rich south, separatists in the southeast and an upsurge in communal violence in the country’s central region.

AFP